Last week I had an accident with a horse that is green and somewhat unpredictable, but who I know very well and feel very confident on. It hurt. It wasn't fun. But it was a good reminder that accidents happen, even when you feel confident, even when you know your horse, even when you have been riding for 20 years, even when you are standing still and haven't started moving yet.
Indeed, I was at a stand-still on this horse, having just mounted, and when I asked her to begin walking, she resisted. I asked again, turning her head to one side to encourage her to take that first step. Instead of stepping forward, she flung herself over backwards in an awkward, off-balance rear that ended in the dirt, with me under her belly and hind-end. Thankfully I walked away with mere bruises, and the horse sprang to her feet with no sign of injury as well. I got back on, after the initial shock wore off but before the pain really set in. She didn't try any funny business again.
What I want my students to take away from this incident is this: I am OK because was wearing my helmet. I was wearing it not because I saw this coming (I truly didn't. The horse felt relaxed. I was feeling great, had been planning on taking her on a trail ride that day because her training was coming along so well and I felt she was ready to go outside.) Not because someone reminded me, "She's a green horse, maybe you should wear a helmet." No, no one ever needs to remind me. It doesn't matter if the horse is green or not. My helmet is always on my head when I get on a horse–every horse, every ride, every time. And so now, when I needed it–the first fall I've taken in four years–it was there, on my head.